To a Mouse

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Burns original Standard English translation
Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

I wonder if Burns wrote this in response to a grief in his life, or if he wrote this without any “inspiration.”

My pregnancy promised me long-awaited joys. I didn’t just plan for this pregnancy, I prayed for it. I lived for it – grief and pain doesn’t even come close to what I went through.

I cast my eye on imagined mistakes, and I relive December 26th over and over again. I think back to my first pregnancy test, my first ultrasound, the last ultrasound, and that happy Christmas day. I go to the bathroom at work and remember when I was still pregnant, wondering if I was peeing as much I should be.

Today (2/28) my second AF came, so I started worrying about the future with increased intensity. Should I really wait three months like my OB told me, or should I go ahead and start trying in April, a month earlier? Some people start trying right after the tx. But Do I really need three months of folic acid? I heard it only lasts a day and then you pee it out – it’s not like my body stores it up. What I wait too long and my AMA gets in and I end up with a trisomy instead of a NTD?

But what if I get pregnant right away and needed that extra month to heal? What if I miscarry, or worse – get another NTD because I didn’t wait another month?

I don’t think mice worry about issues like this.

I promised myself in an earlier post (or perhaps in a comment) that I would live for today without stressing about the future or the present. It’s harder than it looks.

TMI?

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I was late to work today because I chose to have sex with my husband rather than get ready.

Why is this a big deal, you ask?

Because today, for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed myself.

When we were aggressively TTC, sex became a chore. I’ve always rolled my eyes when people use the term “making love,” but whatever we were doing during this time period was more lame than love.

Then, when we finally did conceive, I was too scared and unfamiliar with my body to have sex. There were a few times, but I was afraid of having a miscarriage since my first fertility clinic did not recommend intercourse for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. A bit overkill, especially since there was no reason to treat me as high-risk.

The time we had sex after the termination was pretty lackluster. It was 3 weeks post-tx, and we were both terrified. Once more, I approached this as a chore in order to stop dreading the deed. I had more emotional trauma than anything else, but I do remember I was uncomfortable.  Advice I’d give to other women in my situation? Use lots of lube.The last thing that I wanted to enjoy my body, to feel pain when I my grief was still so fresh, so raw. We used condoms, because even though I hadn’t been able to get pregnant before, it would be just my luck to get pregnant when I didn’t want to. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I was scared that my sex life was doomed.

I didn’t cry that first time, but I did cry the first time I had an orgasm. Just too many feelings, too many emotions. I was relieved that I could in fact have my old sex life back, but I felt a little like I was betraying my daughter.

Obviously, things still didn’t feel natural. Up until this morning, that is.

It was spontaneous, free of any duty, and was a pleasant reminder after the past few years that I can have a normal, healthy relationship with my husband.

My Passion

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I wanted to write about something else today that wasn’t so heart wrenching, so I found this list of “deep questions” that lend themselves to self-discovery. So, I thought that I’d answer the first question today:

What’s your passion?

I’m a progressive – always trying to improve, to move forward, to be the best person that I can be. I’m not competitive in the least, but I always know what I’m capable of doing, of creating, and I don’t want to disappoint myself.

This turns me into a bit of a control freak, I’m afraid. I don’t control others, but with myself, I always have a game plan.

I have too easily found my passion in work and sometimes I have been known to escape reality by using my classroom as an escape. When I was going through my divorce with R, I threw myself to the curriculum. When I was depressed, or lonely, or bored, I developed the most. Then I found G.

And that changed everything. I was (and still am ) passionate about my classroom, but now I find that my passion has been domesticated. I want the family that I was cheated out of. Not just a child, but a family.

I have seen how everything has changed in the past few years because of this: I moved to a house in the suburbs. I’m a homeowner. I have good credit. I bought a house in an excellent school district. I have changed my hobbies to prepare for a growing family.

This page has a few suggestions for finding your passion, so here are my responses to the first three (the last two are business-oriented):

Exercise 1 – Revisit your childhood. What did you love to do?

I loved being with my family. I loved going on car trips, camping at the beach, going to the zoo, and just being with my parents no matter what. I was always “helping”, whether I was tagging along with dad in the garage while he worked on cars or whether I was with my mom while she stripped paint from  wood ( blow torches will always fascinate me!).

I loved going to visit my grandparents and extended family members. Christmas Eve was special, not because I got presents (I don’t remember if we even exchanged presents), but because I was with people who accepted me.

Exercise 2 – Make a “creativity board.”

So… Pinterest? Got that.

Exercise 3 – Make a list of people who are where you want to be.

I have that, and it’s a pretty short list. I remember a few years ago, I told one my colleagues-turned-friend that I hoped my life mimicked hers when I was her age. She had a stable job, still happily married to her husband, and three healthy, mature, and motivated children well on their way to becoming productive and contributing adults.

There are aspects of people that I admire, but there is no body else who is where I want to be. Maybe my in-laws, I suppose, but that’s just wishful thinking.

Here’s one last prompt for myself, taken from this page:

Do the three-movie exercise.

The Royal Tennebaums

Little Miss Sunshine

Amelie

The common thread? Family. Love. Belonging.

Wow. The cheesy self-help questions worked. I really didn’t think it would. I even went into this post with the idea that my passion was my classroom, or self-improvement, but it totally took off in a completely different direction.

I think this is comforting, because sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I question myself and my motives. Do I really want to try again for a baby? Do I really want to be a mother, or am I just in love with the idea of being a mother? I know the answers, but independent self-reflection that supports my plans is a nice confirmation.

Family. That’s my passion.

8 Weeks

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8 weeks ago was the lowest point in my entire life. I was stuck in between the dx and the tx, and was living off of Xanax, Jell-o, and Pop-Tarts.

Today, it seems like it was months ago.

That gives me hope, because I’m looking forward to what I’ll feel like next month, and the month after.

A few things that have helped me get through these past two months are pretty cheesy, but I don’t care. I keep her footprints in a pink frame on the mantle. I have a large candle holder and candle that I bought to give us hope when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have some Buddhist prayer beads that I wear religiously. I read poems and songs that I find comfort in. I’ve just started going back to yoga.

I know that Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) will be tough. I know that my EDD will be tough. And I know that when my best friend’s daughter is born (due ten days after mine), I’ll probably need a drink, but I feel that I can prepare for those days.

For Mother’s Day, I think I’ll write my daughter a letter. Work on the corner where I want her memorial garden to be. I’ll be prepared to cry. I’m going to avoid going out to eat that day. If I am pregnant by this day, I think I’ll be struggling with conflicted feelings.

For my EDD, I want to give a donation to March of Dimes or another charity in her honor. I want to have my necklace done by this time (a soldered charm with her footprint on one side, and on the other, my and my husband’s thumbprint in the shape of a heart). Maybe I’ll be able to look at my ultrasound pictures, but I’m that will bring tears to my eyes, but I think that’s actually a healthy reaction.

Some other ideas that I might consider:

  • butterfly release
  • ladybug release
  • put a swing in the garden (I’m too scared to have a memorial plant – what if it dies!?!?!)
  • luminaries
  • Get a new candle for the candleholder

Any other ideas for grieving/memorial on these trigger days?

Caring Bridge

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While puttering around on the internet, I found a Caring Bridge journal of a family with two children with health problems: one with spina bifida and complications similar to my daughter.

This first hand account has opened my eyes.  He is not even in high school yet and has already had 37 surgeries. 37. And he still lives in serious, significant pain. He has his good days, but it seems as if they are minimal. He attends school, but for right now, he can only handle three hours a day. In the past, he was home schooled for (obvious) medical reasons.

Reading through the entries (over 800 of them!), I realized that spina bifida was way more complicated and painful than I had thought. Hearing how this family copes with his illness has shocked me with just how consuming spina bifida can really be.

It was also reassuring to see a realistic portrayal of the illness – I can easily find stories about happy infants and “miracle babies” who have fully-functioning adult lives, but I know that those are stories to give people hope.

So I started poking around a little more. I read another blog about a little girl whose mother had to quit work because the daughter could only go to school three days a week, and the nurse/caretaker quit. I understand now why so many parents have to quit their job, or only work part-time.

I read about another baby who died after only nine days during her second surgery. The mother was not a candidate for prenatal surgery, so immediately after birth, she had a surgery to repair the spine, and this second surgery was for a shunt. The baby didn’t make it.

I read about another family with seven biological kids, several with autism and one with spina bifida. They also adopted two children with Down Syndrome. They decided to have fundraisers on their webpage to help them pay for medical care.

I read about babies with the best case scenarios, and cried when they met milestones and faced setbacks. It’s not as if I think all babies with spina bifida should have been terminated. But even with these best case scenarios, they all seemed to spend way too much time emergency rooms and recovery rooms.

My husband sat next to me last night, and we skimmed over these webpages and more. And as horrible as it sounds, we found all these stories to be confirmation that we made the decision that was best for our child, for our family.

There is also a part of anger that I feel with these parents for being so selfish. The one mother who lost her newborn after the shunt surgery said that her daughter was only here for nine beautiful days. Beautiful? I just can’t help think that while the baby was beautiful, her time here was not beautiful. It was full of surgeries and medication and pain management. Why?

I try not to judge, but it makes me angry. I’m sure just as angry as I make them. It’s hard to look at the other side of the coin and see where you COULD have been had you just made a different choice. I think that you *have* to get angry at the other choice in order to convince yourself that you made the right choice. When you think YOU have made the compassionate choice, of course the alternatives are cruel and selfish.

I know that for me, the best gift I could have given to my daughter was prevention. I don’t understand how anti-choice advocates scream about fetuses feeling pain during an abortion, but don’t seem to give a damn about the pain that infants feel, the pain that children feel, the pain that the families feel.

There is no easy choice and I might never fully agree with the alternatives that were offered to me, but I will always be thankful that I was given the choice to protect my child.

Open Letter to North Dakota

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Dear North Dakota,

I understand that the winters there get cold. Really cold. But your hearts don’t have to imitate the weather.

Do you understand how cruel life can be sometimes? That your reality isn’t universal? That just because you see that happy smiling six year old child with Down Syndrome at Denny’s after church on Sunday doesn’t mean that is his reality all the time? That when you read about that “miracle baby” on your pro-life webpage, that there is a reason that she is called a miracle – because that’s not the norm?

Do you understand that for some people, death is a blessing? That no matter what “modest proposals” you might suggest, sometimes preventing those lives would be the best route to take.

Do you understand what a lifetime of pain means? I’m not talking about pain that be solved with prescriptions – I’m talking about long term pain that can’t be controlled. That no matter how many surgeries a person goes through, there is no promise that the condition can be fixed, or that a new side effect won’t rear it’s ugly head?

Do you understand what long term treatment costs in a single year? Over a lifetime? That not all insurance plans are created equally, and that experimental treatments aren’t covered? That pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps are very real issues that some people have to worry about?

Do you understand that most disabled children still go through puberty, and that they can be at a disadvantage for predators because of this? Have you ever talked to a mother who had to put her severely retarded 15 year old daughter on Depo Provera – not to stop the menses, but to stop a pregnancy in case she was ever raped? When you have to pay people to be caretakers of your child, you can no longer pretend that the world is a merciful place.

You must not, because I can’t believe that people willfully choose to be that cruel.

However, congratulations are in order, because you have made my state of Texas look compassionate by comparison. We lead the nation in executions. We overtest and underfund public education, creating a school system that is ripe for failure. We are rabidly anti-union, and employees have little to no rights. We have Rick Perry as a governor. And yet with all of these egregious faults (and many more), I would still rather live in Texas simply because my husband and I were allowed to make the best decision for our daughter that we could.

I know that there is very little that unless you were faced with a similarly dire situation, you would understand what I did. You wouldn’t understand what Baylee’s parents went through. Or what Sarah went through. Or what Beth went through. Or what any of these families went through. Even if you can identify with the fear and heartbreak that accompanies a diagnosis, please don’t pretend to understand what we have gone through, because this is a multifaceted issue. Your situation – your story – is not mine.

So North Dakota, here’s a little advice: go back and read All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and remember that no one likes a bully.

Three Little Birds

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Our students did a talent showcase this week for Black History month. Everything was going fine until we got to the the sing-along of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. We got to the first “Every little thing’s, gonna be alright,” and I had to rush out of the cafeteria in tears. And as I sunk down on the bathroom floor in tears, I realized that I so desperately wanted things to be all right.

I’ve spent the past six weeks pretending that everything was alright, because that’s what’s expected of me. Is anyone really prepared to hear my honest answer when I’m politely asked “How are are you doing today?” No. No one really wants to hear that. They want me to smile, teach my students, and not upset the balance of the school.

Not that I teach with uncaring people, it’s just that they feel helpless with my grief. There is nothing they can say. Sympathy is not the same as empathy, so all they can really do is give me hugs and condolences. What if they are thinking that to months has been enough time and that I need to move on?

The song is so simple, and that is its power.

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou.

Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Why did this trigger tears? I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but I think they might have been because I can identify with them so deeply. I think I’m going to have to make this the ringtone for my alarm clock. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to smiles and birds and reassurance?

Everything will be all right.

I have been getting better.

I have more good days than bad days.